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Dizzy head, rapid heartbeat, and a sudden blurred vision – does this sound familiar? You may be experiencing anxiety tunnel vision. Such a condition can result from various disorders, including generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, social stress, and panic attacks. It may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as tremors, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, and even tightness in the chest. Interested to learn more?

An anxious man looking

Let’s explore the relationship between tunnel vision and anxiety and how to effectively manage it.

Common Tunnel Vision Anxiety Symptoms:

The duration and frequency of tunnel vision anxiety can be short-term, intermittent, infrequent, or occasional.

Commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Narrow vision – described as looking through a tube or tunnel.
  • Peripheral vision changes – edges of the eye.
  • Blurry eyesight.
  • Nervous tension, anxiety, fear, or stress.

Symptoms may also come out of nowhere. Intensity varies from mild to severe, appearing in wave patterns where they’re strong one minute and disappear the next. Tunnel visions can change from hour to hour, minute to minute, or remain as a continuous background to a battle with anxiety disorder.

All of these combinations and variations are common but not always necessary. The narrowed tunnel vision symptoms may become more noticeable when stressed and fatigued. Sleep disruption can exacerbate these symptoms.

What Causes Sudden Tunnel Vision?

Tunnel vision can happen when you’re feeling anxious. It makes you think that you can’t look away from anything, which can be scary. Your eyes eliminate your attention from anything that isn’t necessary for solving the problem at hand. Remember, anxiety is an automatic response to perceived threats. It’s designed to keep us safe by activating our fight or flight systems. In a dangerous situation, tunnel vision can help you focus on one thing at a time. However, tunnel vision can get in the way when you’re not in danger. Your brain figures that if something is causing you stress, you can’t spend any time or energy on anything else.

Several reasons can cause anxiety and tunnel vision. Here is a list of the four most common.

1. Stress response

When anxiety occurs, the brain sends signals to the rest of the nervous system, which causes many bodily changes that prepare the person for immediate action. These actions include increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, sweating, muscle tension, and even digestion.

These would include:

  • Muscle tightening 
  • Stimulated nervous system
  • Increase in the body’s senses
  • Dilated pupils 
  • Reduced peripheral vision to focus solely on the potential threat

2. Stress/Anxiety Disorder

A stress response is the outcome of stress and anxiety. Those experiencing stress and anxiety are at risk of developing tunnel vision.

3. Hyperstimulation

When stress responses occur too often, such as when you are stressed out, your body cannot recover from them quickly enough. If not addressed, stress responses can lead to “stress-induced hyperstimulation.” When hyper-stimulated, you may experience changes in your level of activity without experiencing additional stimulation. Hyperstimulation causes tunneling (narrowed) eyesight. Hyperstimulation of the brain can cause symptoms such as tunnel vision.

Other factors that can cause and contribute to tunnel vision are:

  • Psychedelic medication
  • Recreational drugs
  • Stimulants
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood sugar
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Dehydration
  • Hormones And hormonal changes

Is Anxiety Tunnel Vision Dangerous?

While initial signs may seem alarming, they’re not dangerous and don’t require immediate attention. In short, anxiety-caused tunnel vision is temporary and will subside when you focus on treating your anxiety and elevated stress. So, again, there is no cause for alarm or distress. Tunnel vision is harmless and will subside in time.

How to Treat Tunnel Vision Anxiety Symptoms?

If your symptoms are caused by something else, such as medication, drug use, stimulant use, exhaustion, low blood sugar, dehydration, or hormonal changes, addressing the specific source will help alleviate them.

Even though narrowing and tunnel vision are usually associated with stress and anxiety, they can also be caused by other emotions. If you’re angry and frustrated, calmer thoughts might help you slow down your thoughts, mind, and nerves.

It can take up to 20 hours or even longer for the brain to fully recover from a significant stress reaction/response. However, this is entirely normal and shouldn’t be concerning.

If you see any improvement with regular stress management activities, make a plan and stick to it. It may require multiple stress management activities and relaxation exercises to significantly improve the symptoms and alleviate stress. The reoccurrence of tunnel vision may even ultimately disappear.

If this problem stems from chronic anxiety disorders, you may need professional help.

Axiom Medical’s Senior Vice President Dr. Kertay suggests trying the 333 Rule to break the cycle of anxiety and manage stress. Watch his video here.


Treatments for Anxiety Tunnel Vision

Treating the symptoms of eye strain usually follows the same process regardless of severity. Doctors usually begin by prescribing medications. After that, there are two options: Laser therapy alone or a combination of laser therapy and medication. Surgery is the final option.

Reminder: Suicidal mindsets may also result in a tunnel vision experience, influenced by a desire to end emotional distress. Learn more about the effects and what you can do to help.


Axiom Medical Can Help!

Having a trusted partner with expertise and experience in the workforce mental health space is key to providing your employees compassionate care. Axiom Medical has designed effective end-to-end solutions to help employers like you build a high-performing, resilient workforce.

CONTACT US

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